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Buoyed by a promising trade report, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) closed the week once again within a stone's throw of 14,000, gaining 49 points, or 0.4%, on the day. The December trade deficit fell to $38.5 billion, down more than $10 billion from November and better than economists' expectations of $45.4 billion. The surprising news means that fourth-quarter GDP did not contract, and also showed that oil import levels are at their lowest in 10 years, in part from the shale boom in North Dakota, which has also increased exports. The $38.5 billion deficit was the lowest in nearly three years. Another report showed that Chinese export grew faster than expected, a boon for the global economy.
Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) led Dow stocks, climbing 2.6%. The world's No. 1 PC maker announced new, stricter guidelines for its suppliers in China, including fair pay and social insurance, but it seems to be gaining on renewed hopes for a breakup. Dell's (UNKNOWN: DELL.DL ) agreement to go private earlier in the week has put increasing pressure on HP to unlock value for investors, but late today, opposition against Dell's buyout was brewing among major shareholders, including the largest outside holder, Southeastern Asset Management, so that deal may take longer than expected.
Boeing (NYSE: BA ) was the blue chips' biggest loser today, falling 1.1% as problems continued with its 787 Dreamliner jet. After being grounded for three weeks due to battery fires, the manufacturer now said there could be delays in deliveries. The manufacturer told customers today that there will be delays or a risk for delays for about 800 planes on back order. Only about 50 Dreamliners have been delivered thus far.
Finally, with Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL ) shares at all-time highs near $800, Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt is selling 42% of his stake, or $2.5 billion worth. The 3.2 million shares Schmidt will put on the market are the equivalent of the number of Google shares traded in nearly a day and a half.
Are you at ease... or nervous? It's been a great five-year run for investors, with the Dow and S&P at or near all-time highs. Yet fears abound. When will the next downturn hit? Will political gridlock lead to portfolio-killing inflation? To learn how to protect your portfolio, click here for free guidance from the Motley Fool Pro Academy!